In the game of pool, the definition of a defensive shot is any play where the player attempts to not pocket an object ball. Accurate for the most part, with a few exceptions. Many players think of defense or safety as nothing more than “hiding” the cue ball, forcing their opponent to shoot a jump or kick shot just to avoid giving up a ball in hand. That’s not a bad starting point, however further examination of the subject reveals many more principles of defensive play and we will take a look at them here.
Distance: A long shot, even if it’s straight in to the pocket, is the bane of many pool players existence. Use that to your advantage when you can and put as much space as possible between the cue ball and object ball. The object ball’s distance to the pocket is a huge factor here. Don’t believe me? Try these 2 shots : A long straight in to any corner pocket with the object ball a foot or so away from the intended pocket and cue ball parked just outside of the opposite corner pocket. Same set up for the 2nd shot except, this time move your object ball to the center spot of the table and shoot. Shoot each shot 10 times and look at your percentages… see what I mean? On the other end of the spectrum, any time you can land the cue ball extremely close to or frozen to the object ball chances are fair that you’ll be getting another shot soon. Just make sure the angle you created doesn’t point to a pocket.
Angle: Just like distance, both extremes can work. No angle can be like the long straight in with the object ball in the middle of the table or a near 90 degree cut shot. Observe your opponent closely when he’s at the table to see if you notice any weaknesses for any type of shot and use it to your advantage if you do!
Dead Zones: The 2 diamond area in the middle of both short rails along with the half diamond distance areas on each side of the side pockets are bad places for object balls to be. Consider this before playing your next defensive shot.
Direction: Any time you can leave your opponent with a shot where he or she cannot look directly at the object ball (think 2 or more rail kick shot) is yet another way to turn up the defensive heat. Also consider which side of the table is tougher for your opponent based on whether they are a right or left handed player. Before I trained myself to shoot right handed, certain mid to long range cuts to my right were problematic due to the unnatural and uncomfortable body position needed to get my tip to the cue ball.
Intentional Foul: Some times, the play to make is to intentionally hit and or pocket your opponent’s ball and give them a ball in hand! May be its pocketing a key ball that keeps them from breaking up a problem cluster to continue the run or just a short putt of their object ball, adding it to an existing cluster and leaving no clear path to a pocket for any balls remaining on the table. I love the looks I get from other people when I play a shot this way. Most don’t “get it” until it’s too late.
2 Way Shot: This is a beautiful situation where the primary intent is to pocket the object ball but your opponent is hooked if you miss.
Rails: Leave the cue ball frozen to a rail and your opponent only has access to the top 1/3rd of it without elevating the cue.
Pocket Points: Landing the cue ball in that tiny area behind a pocket point without scratching requires the touch of a surgeon. This type of safety opportunity usually comes up in end game scenarios where only the game winning object ball remains on the table.
Ball In Hand: Proceed with caution on this one! Every now and then, your best shot is no shot but to pick up the cue ball and hand it over to your opponent and let them do the dirty work.
I have no doubt incorporating these techniques into your safety play will put more wins on the board for you. If you’re like me, I don’t want to win every match I play, just the next one!